The rise of fake video

Published 11:57 am Thursday, March 15, 2018

If you thought fake news was bad, better hold on to your hat. It’s only going to get worse.

The New York Times reports that technology has advanced to the point that, with some off-the-web software and a little effort, people can now create fake videos. They are not yet sophisticated enough to fool the careful observer, but that will change. Once, it took a huge Hollywood studio to create a clip of Forrest Gump shaking hands with John F. Kennedy. Soon anyone will be able to do it in her basement.

This means that in the near future it will be possible to create, say, a video clip that seems to show a political candidate confessing to murder, or kicking a puppy, or doing something even worse, like rooting for the Dallas Cowboys.

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Most people probably will use the technology the way they use face-swapping apps now: to post funny things on social media. But others could cause a great deal of mayhem. Imagine a candidate for the state legislature having to prove, say, that he never threw up in a strip club when a video purports to show him doing just that.

The potential for havoc is huge. Still, there is an upside: Fake videos, like fake news generally, could renew interest in epistemology: the study of knowledge — of how we know what we know and whether we are justified in knowing it. This isn’t to say dollar stores will start selling T-shirts of Edmund Husserl and Willard V.O. Quine. But optimistically, a few philosophy professors might want to get ready for their close-up.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch